Are Bloggers Subject to International Law?

Tim Worstall has an interesting article in TCS noting that what Americans write about internationals is subject to libel laws in their respective countries, so long as it is delivered to those countries. As anything on the Internet, of course, is.

Your words are subject to all of the rules of the some 200 plus different legal jurisdictions on the planet, at least all of those in which your post is downloaded. As Yahoo famously found out, the sale of Nazi memorabilia is illegal in Germany, so they had to either block their auctions of people selling old uniforms from all Germans, or they had to insist that such things were not sold on their network globally. The same is true of holocaust denial, a crime in Germany. Your writing a post that denies that that gross slaughter happened, if read by someone in Germany, makes you liable to punishment (and however foul I think holocaust denial is, I am with Voltaire, I hate what you say yet will defend your right to say it,), and yes, I can see some in the audience thinking that this is OK, so what if the Illinois Nazi Party can’t go to the Oktoberfest in Munich?

An interesting conundrum. Of course, unlike Yahoo, I don’t regularly do business overseas and have no assets abroad that can be easily seized. The United States government is unlikely to extradite me to, say, Portugal because some resident thereof has filed a suit. Still, this is an issue that needs to be resolved.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Law and the Courts, United Nations, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tim Worstall says:

    Ummm, Portugal.
    Nice reference to another part of the piece.
    I stand by my last paragraph, that this is a problem that needs to be solved but I have no idea how.

    Any ideas?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Not really. One would think it would be easy to come up with some sort of international agreement, at least within the US-EU-Commonwealth countries, as to what constitutes libel and limiting the jurisdiction of localities to internationals. I doubt there’s much to be done in the short term with such as China.